The iconic roof of the Olympic Stadium of Athens, once a symbol of triumph during the 2004 Olympic Games, now faces potential dismantling, The Guardian reported. This comes as the Greek government has indefinitely closed the 70,000-seat stadium due to safety concerns over the steel canopy designed by Santiago Calatrava.
According to The Guardian, one well-placed source stated, “Nothing at this point is being ruled out. Maybe it will have to come down.”
The canopy, a symbol of architectural grandeur at the time, has failed to meet legally required levels of structural stability, according to a public asset inspection.
The closure has raised uncertainties about the future of the stadium and a nearby velodrome with a similar structure. Officials are considering the possibility of dismantling the famous roof. Signs of rust have been detected in its steel cables and bolts.
As noted by The Guardian, inadequate maintenance has been cited as the primary cause of the stadium’s deterioration. Many Olympic installations, including the stadium, were left to decay for years due to budget constraints imposed by international lenders following Greece’s financial crisis in 2009.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed disappointment, saying that the OAKA Olympic complex “had not been maintained for two decades.” The cost of maintaining Olympic facilities was not a priority during that period.
The neglect and decay of these currently vacant and forlorn installations can mainly be traced back to the cost-cutting measures enforced by consecutive Greek governments, The Guardian emphasized. These cuts were demanded by international lenders following Greece’s financial crisis in late 2009, which brought the nation perilously close to bankruptcy and expulsion from the eurozone.
The Calatrava-designed canopy has become a symbol of Greece’s financial woes. Many Greeks reportedly blame the extravagance of the 2004 Olympic Games for contributing to the country’s economic troubles.
Commenting to The Guardian, Yiannis Tsirbas, associate professor of political science at the University of Athens, said that the stadium “has become a symbol of the collapse of the narrative of [modernization] of Greece.” The fate of the stadium and its iconic roof now depends on further assessments by professional engineers.
Olympic Stadium of Athens
The Olympic Stadium of Athens, Greece’s largest stadium, was initially designed in 1980 and completed in 1982. It hosted the European Athletics Championships and the 1983 European Cup Final. In 1987, it was the venue for the European Cup Winners’ final, and in 1994, it hosted the UEFA Champions League Final.
Extensively renovated for the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics, the stadium reopened on July 30, 2004. During the 2004 Games, it hosted athletics events, football finals, opening and closing ceremonies, and the Paralympics ceremonies.
It also saw action in the 1991 Mediterranean Games and 1997 World Championships in Athletics. In 2007, it hosted the UEFA Champions League Final.